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Alcohol, BAC And Car Accidents

Laws concerning driving under the influence of alcohol have evolved substantially over the years. Significant pressure from the federal government was required to compel all 50 states to adopt a blood alcohol content level of .08 as the legal limit for DUI. Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the states change the limit to .05 BAC. A recent study suggests that even that change may not be enough. According to researchers at the University of California, San Diego, even very small amounts of alcohol increase the chances of a collision. The study showed that drivers at a .01 BAC were more likely to get into an accident than sober drivers.

While drunk driving laws vary from state to state, a BAC of .08 is considered by many to be the line that separates impaired drivers from those still able to safely operate their vehicles. In a review of thousands of accidents tracked in the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System database, little evidence was found for that distinction. The likelihood that a driver would be responsible for a fatal accident rose steadily from blood alcohol limits of .01 to .24. No spike occurred from .07 to .08. The steady rise demonstrated that the first alcoholic beverage consumed starts the process of degrading a person's driving ability.

A recent safety campaign has focused on the message that buzzed driving is drunk driving. This latest study may mean that impairment begins even before the driver could identify any effect from alcohol. Drunk driving laws must simply reflect a choice of how much impairment is too much. From a safety perspective, any alcohol is too much alcohol when it comes to minimizing the potential for a deadly accident.

Source: Claims Journal, "Even Very Low BAC Levels Associated With Causing Car Crashes," 17 January 2014

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